San Francisco was founded by Spanish missionaries in 1776 and it remained a small town for over 70 years. As late as 1848 it had a population of a mere 1,000 or so.
But the California Gold Rush, which began that year, sparked a population spurt, while its coastal location eventually turned San Francisco into one of the most important ports in America. By the turn of the century, its population had hit 400,000.
However, the city's location proved a double-edged sword: it also lies on the northern section of the San Andreas Fault, where the Pacific and the North American tectonic plates collide.
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In 1906, a major earthquake struck California and was felt as far away as the adjoining state of Nevada. The epicentre of the quake was just two milesoutside the city, leaving San Francisco particularly badly hit.
The initial shock destroyed large numbers of buildings and caused fires that spread rapidly through the city. Up to 75% of the population was left homeless. The official death toll was put at 375 casualties, but historians now believe the real number was nearly ten times greater.
The city was rapidly rebuilt, thanks to the generous lending policies of the Bank of Italy (now Bank of America Merrill Lynch), which had been founded inSan Francisco. Indeed, the refugee camps established to provide temporary accommodation were all closed down by 1908.
However, the huge insurance costs (estimated at $6.5bn in inflation-adjusted dollars) weakened many insurance companies, and were blamed for the Panic of 1907-1908, which saw the stock market lose half its value.
Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.
He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.
Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.
As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.
Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri
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